The Christmas Gift

We celebrated Christmas with my oldest daughter and her family this last weekend.  It’s exciting to go down and have a “second” Christmas with the grandbabies, watching their excitement as they see gifts they weren’t expecting as Christmas had long since been over.

I dutifully wrapped the gifts for each of them and handed them out, one by one.  Andros, that sweet little boy, opened his first gift.  He looked at me and said, “A shirt?  I have shirts!” Everyone started giggling, but the best part of the evening was when he went to open his second gift.  To an adult, the second gift was obviously too small to be an item of clothing.  As he slowly unwrapped it, he looked at me and said, “It’s not a shirt, right?!”

We got such a giggle out of that!  He’s only four, and while his momma is teaching him about being grateful and gracious about what’s given to him, sometimes he just doesn’t quite understand and acts like the little boy he is!

Do you ever think that we are like my grandson with God?  He provides for us.  In fact the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

It doesn’t mean the needs that we’ve asked for.  It doesn’t even mean He meets the needs that we want!  God knows our needs and supplies them.  However, just like little Andros, we get something and we look at it and say, “Hmmmm…that’s not what I asked for!”   When He provides for us again, we pray and say, “It’s not that one thing is it, God?”

I don’t think we do this on purpose, either!  I think in sin, we assume that we know what’s best for us.  We know what will make us happy or content or pleased.  We think that this thing or that thing will be what we need to make everything better.  In reality, God already know our needs, and He will give them to us when it’s the right time.  Often times, even though it’s hard to admit, the things that He gives us we don’t even realize we need until we look back on that moment in our life and say, “Yes!  I see where you were, God, and how You provided for me!”

I encourage you, friends, let’s take the time to ask God to supply our needs, and then step back and take all that He gives us with open hearts and gracious spirits.  You never know if the one thing you don’t think you want is exactly the one thing you’ll need!

~Erin

P.S. His second gift was a book for us to read together!

My sweet grandson with his ever-present chocolate milk mustache!

Giddy Over a Christmas Concert…And a Public Life Lived for Christ

Annually I try to get tickets for my family to attend some type of Christmas concert.  It’s a tradition that has developed gradually, but one that I really enjoy sharing with my husband and son.  In years past, we’ve gone to church sponsored “Singing Christmas Tree” concerts, local hospital sponsored Chris Tomlin concerts, and have even counted the Eclectic Christmas Ministry’s singing angels as our annual concert. 

This year’s concert occurred last night when the Shade and Petersen Clans carried ourselves to Opelika, Alabama.  It was one that I anticipated for weeks; simply because it was one of my all-time-favorite Contemporary Christian Musician: Matthew West.

Many of you recall that I have a fond spot in my heart for Matthew West because he prayed with Erin over my brother’s stage 4 lymphoma in 2013.  Yet, even before he was willing to stop a “meet & greet” to pray, he was one of my favorites.  You see, every single time I’ve seen him in concert, he’s prayed from the stage for his team and for everyone in the audience.  The first time I witnessed him do this was at an all-day Christian concert festival in Virginia…and on that day he was literally the only performer who prayed from the stage.  

I love his music.  But more than that, I admire his desire to point the focus to God’s Glory; not his own.  There’s a lesson here that I need to continuously remind myself of…Focus on God; not myself.

In Romans 1:17 (NASB), we see that we are to live by faith.  “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written: But the righteous one will live by faith.” 

Walking by faith has to have a destination in mind, which is God.  We, in and of ourselves, are not going to be able to have unwavering faith…we have to trust that God is able to accomplish all things.  If we are focused on ourselves, our own talents, or our circumstances, then we aren’t truly walking that faith in Christ.  Thus, our own ability is not the true object of our focus when we walking in faith.  On this side of heaven, we will be repeatedly disappointed in our own ability…even if we are a famous musician.  

How do we focus that walk of our faith?  We lean into Jesus.  We acknowledge God’s hand in our lives, we trust His role, and we confess it with our mouths.  Publicly.  Possibly at church, or in a small group…or from a stage during a concert.  

Ephesians 2:8 reminds us that “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  

The gift of faith is one to be celebrated and one to constantly be grateful for.  One way we retain the spirit of being thankful is by keeping that focus on the giver of the gift.  God.  Not us. 

The Christmas concerts are a special annual tradition.  The example from Matthew West is a daily reminder to stay focused on our Heavenly Father.  

Merry Christmas!

~Emily

The Back & Forth Gifts

My Mom had her 70th birthday this last week and was once again the recipient of “The Card.”  It’s a tradition between my Mom and my Aunt that is decades old.  One sent the other a birthday card that had an implication that the card was recycled.  The other, thinking they were being coy about the recycling reference, saved the card until the next birthday. So on, and so on for decades.  The card started to fall apart, so they created a more permanent Linus cardholder, but continued writing birthday notes year after year.  The card got heavier and heavier to send so there are occasional gaps in the years where they agreed to stop sending the card in an effort to save on postage.  And when they were least expecting it…the card showed up again on a birthday.

Much like “The Card” between my mom and her sister, Iron Porch has a smacking doll that gets additions year after year.  The doll is sent between Erin and me when the other is least expecting it.  The additions are hysterical to us…and probably only us.  There’s a crazy-ill-fitting-camo dress, a little pink kitty cat, a yellow purse filled with memorabilia, a hard hat from when we went to Florida after Hurricane Michael, and recently added a COVID-19 mask of protection.

While I thought that my mom and I had this super-secret transfer between co-conspirators, I recently was told by a dear friend at church that she also had a back and forth gift.  One year at a white elephant event she battled another gal for a candy dish with cinnamon candies.  She lost.  But received it soon after from the winner as a gift.  They passed it back and forth as wedding gifts and other marked occasions multiple times. I didn’t ask her, but I assume they added new candy each time they passed the gift.

I present to you three examples of women passing a gift back and forth.  Occasion to occasion.  Year after year.  All in a means to acknowledge a special relationship and have detailed memories associated with a particular object (ie: card, doll, or candy dish).

Instead of the occasion by occasion sharing of a tangible item, we shared a piece of God each day? What if day by day, we shared a prayer with those closest to us? What if we shared a scripture with one another? What if it was simply a smile or a kind word?

What if we made each other a priority in an eternal way?

Scripture gives us a model of friendship, not between two women, but rather two men: Jonathan and David.  Jonathan was heir to the throne of Israel, as his father was King Saul.  In 1 Samuel 14: 6-15, we see that he is a man of action and ready to challenge the Philistines from a military perspective.  The Israelites, and specifically Saul, were terrified of the mounting Philistine army and the giant, Goliath, who was sent in to end the conflict.

And then a shepherd boy shows up and takes the challenge (hence the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17).  At that point, it’s easy for us to see how the friendship between David and Jonathan blossomed. They both acted and had courage despite the odds being against them.  They both had faith in God’s power and experienced deliverance in battle.  They were great leaders with integrity and loyalty.

In 1 Samuel 18:1-4 (NASB) it states, “Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved his as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the rode that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.”

You see, Jonathan loved David as himself.  They were dear friends.  Because of that friendship, Jonathan gave David his gifts.  More than just the tangible gifts of his robe and his armor.  Jonathan gave David the acknowledgment that this was the man God had chosen to be Israel’s king.  Jonathan loved David as we can only hope friends will love us.

True friendship with true giving and with an eternal impact.  Back and forth, year after year, occasion after occasion…or an acknowledgment of God’s work in their lives.

From the Iron Porch, I pray that you each have some type of “Back & Forth Gift” this week!

~Emily

The Back & Forth Gifts copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Gifts

My husband and I were recently sitting around a campfire while camping on the beach when our 8-year-old son side-swiped us both with a deep faith-related question.

“Can your spiritual gifts change throughout your life?”

Imagine our surprise that this was a question from our 3rdgrader! Neither of us could recall ever talking about spiritual gifts around him.

After much discussion, we assured him that his spiritual gifts could change throughout his life depending on how he grew in his relationship with God.  He asked some follow-up questions about if some spiritual gifts were better than others, which launched another discussion about God using everyone’s gifts to win hearts for Christ.

This conversation got me thinking about adult perceptions of spiritual gifts.   Does the average adult Christian know what their spiritual gift is? Do you know? How many times have you taken the spiritual gifts test?  Have your own gifts morphed throughout the years?  Are you utilizing your gifts to bring glory to God?

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) tells us “each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I’d venture to guess that your gift is one that is already apparent in your life, even if you haven’t acknowledged it as your gift. Those who are naturally content to host and feed guests are likely gifted with hospitality.  If you have this gift, you may love having people over to your home. Perhaps it’s time to host a small group for your church, which would meet in your home.  Those who are in the education field are likely gifted with teaching.   If you have this gift, you may be a teacher as a profession.  Perhaps it’s time to consider teaching a Sunday school class.

This week I’d like to encourage you to reflect on your spiritual gifts.  Do you know what gifts you’ve been given? Are you using them for God’s glory?  Are you willing to stretch yourself a little to try something new with your gifts?

Come to the porch and let us know how your gifts are evolving.

~Emily

Spiritual Gifts

Crying Gifts

I made my husband cry on Christmas day.

All I did was hand him keys and an invoice to a brand-new boat.  He was so overwhelmed that it brought him to tears.  It wasn’t the boat itself that caused the tears. The tears came from knowing, I was willing to be part of investing in his dreams.  At that moment, he knew that I had complete belief that he would have his own fly-fishing guide service.

Have you ever been overwhelmed by a gift and started crying?

I once cried over a set of earrings, my first real diamonds.  I have cried over a rocking chair, in hopes I would one day rock an infant to sleep.  I even cried over my great-grandma’s Bible, entrusted to me as the family historian.

There is an overwhelming emotion that comes out as tears when someone believes in you and your dreams.  A career change, becoming a spouse or parent, or preserving a family’s heritage…all of those are dreams, that when tied to a gift, create an emotional response.  I think that’s the main reason my husband cried over a boat.

With that in mind, do you think Mary cried over the gifts from the wise men?

The Bible tells us that they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold is historically a gift provided to someone of royalty.  Not necessarily a traditional gift for a child, but rather a gift fit for a King.  Both frankincense and myrrh are used for their aroma as incense, perfume, and medicine in burial rituals to assist with covering the scent of death.  Not necessarily a traditional gift for a child and certainly not one for a King. Yet these gifts are a foreshadowing of the death that would occur for this small child.

My feminine heart feels like Mary may have cried over those gifts.  They were gifts with overwhelming meaning, which created the potential for an emotional response.  The knowledge that the Messiah had been born and was going to die for all of us.

A death, which would be the ultimate gift. One worthy of an emotional response. And likely the reason that we see new believers often in tears when they first accept this gift from God.  Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” (NIV)

Whether is a dream come true gift, a piece of history gift, or an extravagant gift, tears could be a natural reaction.  I didn’t mean to make my husband cry on Christmas, nor do I think the wise men would have meant to make Mary cry if that ever happened.

I do believe God smiles benevolently at the heavenly rejoicing when one of us accepts the gift of salvation through the belief that Jesus is our Savior.  It’s likely that He understands tears, as an emotional response to that gift.

~Emily

Boat